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Bad Bayou Halloween Diorama | Part 1

| October 20, 2017 More

Bad Bayou Halloween DiroamaThere’s a crisp, if slightly malevolent, tinge to the night air this time of year and that can only mean one thing… a new Halloween project! This project was inspired by the Micro-Trains N scale BNSF Halloween graffiti car, as soon as I saw this car I knew I wanted to build a scene around it. A diorama seemed a good idea, and since I had a surplus of recently culled pallet wood I decided on building a shadowbox for this seasonal scene.

After sawing the pallets apart, I cut the wood slats down to size for a box measuring 16” wide by 8” tall and 8” deep. As the BNSF car is just about 7” from coupler to coupler, this should make for a well-proportioned box. I wanted this shadowbox to have a very rustic, almost folk art look to it so I’ve avoided and miter joints and went with simple butt joints. I picked up some hobby oak strips at the local home center to act as a strap joint to hold our wood together. I roughed up this oak with a foam rasp to give it an aged look. These straps were originally going to be hidden on the inside but after seeing how good they looked, I wanted them to be a visible feature of this box.

To go for a little extra authenticity, I had to hunt down some #6 x 5/8″ solid brass wood screws with slotted heads online. Brass plated steel Phillips head screws felt too contemporary. I know, maybe just a wee bit detail obsessed. I also purchased some glass and a new glass cutter, made a front glass panel for the shadowbox but that too felt a little too posh for this rustic piece so we’ll leave the front open. We will be using an acrylic sheet and lots of LEDs, but that’s for the next article :)

Next up was to add some color to our shadowbox. I could have left the wood natural but since this piece will have a swampy feel, a green color seemed a better choice. I started out with green chalk paint using a paint chipping technique of spreading paste wax on the wood before painting. After the paint dries you scrape the paint off the waxed areas. This is the same idea as using salt and hairspray to weather trains.

The first paint coat came out pretty well, so I went for a second coat in a slightly different shade. And this is where things went just a bit sideways. While the paste wax technique did work, I realized the shadowbox now looked too busy. Instead of having an aged look, all this chipped paint was distracting and would take away from the scene itself. The next idea was to cover my chipped paint with a single paint color, antique white, then apply some aging techniques to the white paint. While the white paint looked ok, it wasn’t quite what I wanted so… time to take ALL the paint off and start again.

I used a gel based paint stripper, twice, to get most of the now 3 coats of paint removed. After that I used wire brushes and denatured alcohol and scrubbed away more of the paint. What a mess! As I was scrubbing and wiping up the paint goop, I realized the paint had mixed with the paint stripper and alcohol , resulting in an olive green wood stain that looked good, really good actually. I placed a couple of sections of rope handles temporarily to get a feel for how our shadowbox would look, and I think we have a winner… of course, a malevolent Halloween-style winner.

The box itself was supposed to be the easy part of this build, things don’t always go to plan, but that’s not always a bad thing. Now we just have to get busy with our scene so we’ll be ready for October 31st!

Article Links

Micro-Trains N Scale BNSF Halloween Graffiti Car

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